General election 2019: PM to visit north after Labour heartland gains

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Media caption“We are going to unite and level up” – Boris Johnson speaks outside Downing Street

Boris Johnson is to visit the north of England later, hours after celebrating his party’s biggest election win for 30 years by sweeping aside Labour in its traditional heartlands.

The prime minister has said he hopes the Conservatives’ victory will bring “closure” to the Brexit debate and “let the healing begin”.

He won a Commons majority of 80, his party’s largest since 1987.

In contrast, Labour suffered its worst election result since the 1930s.

Jeremy Corbyn said he did “everything he could” to get Labour into power but expects to stand down “early next year” when a successor has been chosen by the party.

The Labour leader said the election was “taken over by Brexit”, while others within the party blamed Mr Corbyn’s leadership for the defeat.

He said he would not step down as leader yet because the “responsible thing to do is not to walk away from the whole thing”.

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn: “There is no such thing as Corbynism”

Mr Johnson, however, is expected to announce a minor re-shuffle possibly as early as Monday.

MPs will then return to Westminster on Tuesday and begin the process of swearing in, before the Queen formally opens Parliament on Thursday with “reduced ceremonial elements”.

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The prime minister has also vowed to reintroduce his Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) to Parliament before Christmas, which could happen by the end of next week.

It would see MPs begin the process of considering legislation that would pave the way for the UK to leave the EU on 31 January. Talks about a future trade and security relationship will begin almost immediately.

There were protests in London on Friday following Mr Johnson’s election victory.

Demonstrators in Westminster carried signs that read “Defy Tory Rule” and “No to Boris Johnson”.

The Metropolitan Police said two people were arrested in relation to the protests – one person on suspicion of assaulting a police officer and another for suspected affray.

Following the Conservatives’ election win, Mr Johnson spoke to SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon on Friday evening and reiterated his opposition to a second independence referendum in Scotland.

It came after the first minister said the PM had “no right” to stand in the way of a second vote following her party’s “overwhelming” election performance. The SNP won 48 of Scotland’s 59 seats.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Any Questions on Friday, senior cabinet minister Thérèse Coffey insisted there would be no referendum on Scottish independence during Conservatives’ five year term.

After speaking to Ms Sturgeon, the PM also took phone calls from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar to discuss the next steps on Brexit.

The Conservatives won a total of 365 seats in the election, while Labour finished on 203, the SNP 48, Liberal Democrats 11 and the DUP eight.

Sinn Fein has seven MPs, Plaid Cymru four and Northern Ireland’s SDLP two. The Green Party and NI’s Alliance Party have one each.

The Brexit Party – which triumphed in the summer’s European Parliament elections – failed to win any Westminster seats.

The Conservatives swept aside Labour in its traditional heartlands in the Midlands and the north of England and picked up seats across Wales, while holding off the Lib Dem challenge in many seats in the south of England.

Voter turnout overall, on a cold and damp polling day, was 67.3%, which is down by 1.5% on the 2017 total.

‘Let the healing begin’

Speaking outside No 10 on Friday, Mr Johnson said he hoped his party’s “extraordinary” election victory would bring “closure” to the Brexit debate and “let the healing begin”.

He also thanked lifelong Labour supporters who deserted Jeremy Corbyn’s party and turned to the Conservatives, saying he would fulfil his pledge to take the UK out of the EU on 31 January.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are looking for a new leader after Jo Swinson lost her Dunbartonshire East seat to the SNP by 149 votes.

While she admitted her “unapologetic” pro-Remain strategy had not worked, she said she did not regret standing up for her “liberal values” and urged the party to “regroup and refresh” itself in the face of a “nationalist surge” in British politics.

Sir Ed Davey and Baroness Sal Brinton will be acting co-leaders for the party now that Ms Swinson is no longer an MP.

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